adopting family with misconceptions about the home study process

9 Common Misconceptions in Adoption Home Studies

By Anna St. Martin

January 4, 2024

There’s often a mindset of “passing” or “failing” a home study. However, the purpose of a home study is to assess where your family is in the adoption process — mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally. Your home study provider is there to ensure you’re ready to provide a child with a loving, stable, safe, and healthy home.

There are plenty of misconceptions about adoption home studies, and we're here to help put your mind at ease as you head into the home study process! Let’s discuss common themes we often hear...

9 Common Home Study Misconceptions

At first glance, the home study process may seem lengthy and challenging, but there's no need to stress - it isn't as complicated as you might think. Before you dive into getting your home prepared and your documents ready, let's debunk nine myths about home studies.

1. Renting a home disqualifies you from adopting.

Most likely no, this is not a key consideration for home study approval. A home study provider’s decision primarily lies in the stability of your living situation and the presence of a safe, comfortable, appropriate space for children within that setting. In essence, it's not about homeownership but rather about ensuring a secure and suitable environment for potential adoptees.

2. Being “too old” disqualifies you from adopting.

While age does not affect a parent’s ability to love a child, it can affect one’s ability to adopt to a certain degree. Many agencies and professionals have minimum age requirements, and some do maintain upper age limits. This means that as you explore and consider adoption opportunities, you could be limited to the number of agencies that may accept you as a prospective adopting family, or you may have to consider what type of adoption to pursue (private vs. public adoption).

It's essential to recognize that the focus is on the family’s ability to provide a stable and loving environment for a child rather than setting rigid age restrictions. Your provider will additionally assess any physical or mental health concerns that could come with an older adopting family to identify whether the family is physically and mentally fit to raise a child.

3. A criminal record will automatically prevent me from adopting.

Although it depends on the nature and severity of the offense, you could still be eligible to adopt. Your provider will ask for additional details regarding the offense, and go from there.

Please note that it’s best to be upfront about a criminal record, as all adults in an adopting family undergo rigorous background checks and the truth is bound to make itself known at some point.

Learn more about the necessary documentation you’ll need to get home study approved.

4. Forgetting small details or not being specific enough in the application will disqualify me from adopting.

No, it won't. However, we might request more information if needed. If we ask you to submit something missing, we'll provide a deadline. Missing that deadline could put you at risk of going "inactive." But rest assured, no one will prevent you from adopting if you accidentally leave something blank and address it later.

5. A medical condition will disqualify me from adopting.

Not necessarily. Home studies assess the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your family and may require documentation to assist in this process. Prospective birth families aim to ensure that you can meet the needs of their child. Evaluation of medical conditions is done on an individual basis.

As long as your physician(s) can affirm that your condition is well-managed and won't impact your parenting capabilities, you should still be eligible for adoption. In some cases, your home study provider will ask for an additional statement from your specialist or mental health provider, further verifying your readiness and capability as a parent. Perfect health isn't a requirement, but your ability to care for a growing child is crucial.

adopting parents during the home study process

6. My home must be spotless and perfect for the “inspection.”

No home is flawless! When your home study professional comes over, they're looking for an enthusiastic couple with a positive outlook on adoption. Your goal is to demonstrate that your home will provide a safe, stable, loving, and healthy environment for a child.

While a reasonable level of cleanliness is anticipated, rest assured that we're not there to inspect your baseboards or scrutinize your dusting habits. The purpose of the home tour is to give your home study provider a chance to assess the general cleanliness, the safety of your home, and adequate space for a child. 

No need to hire a house cleaner or spend a week deep cleaning in preparation. Just be prepared to provide a tour and then sit and chat openly about yourselves and your adoption dreams.

7. My home must be fully baby-proofed and have a ready nursery before the “inspection.”

You don't need to have everything perfectly set up right now; there's no requirement for a fully equipped nursery before the visit. The social worker is primarily concerned with ensuring you have an appropriate space designated for a nursery and plans to implement some basic child safety measures in your home prior to the baby's arrival.

However, it would be beneficial to start thinking about and implementing some basic child safety measures in your home. This includes having working smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector, secure furniture, and properly stored cleaners and medicines. While it's not a "failure" if you miss something, we'll kindly remind you to take care of it before your child arrives, and we may follow up during another scheduled visit.

Learn more about getting your home ready for the home visit.

8. I don’t need a home study.

If you plan to pursue adoption, you will need an approved home study, whether you’re pursuing private domestic adoption, step-parent adoption, kinship adoption, public (foster) adoption, or international adoption.

It’s best to view the home study as the first serious, educational step toward adoption. It’s not a “check-the-box” activity! It’s your opportunity to explore, learn, and prepare. The process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months – driven by your pace.

Your home study provider will be your mentor and advocate for the entirety of your adoption journey (arguably the important relationship on your team), and you get to feel a strong sense of accomplishment by completing this extensive assessment of your life.

Here are five more reasons a home study is essential for you, a prospective birth family, and your future adopted child.

9. It won’t take me too long.

People commonly underestimate how long it can take to gather and submit the necessary documentation for the home study. The longer you put it off, the longer you delay your adoption. We always advise that you get a head start on the paperwork and try to take care of it quickly.

Our nationwide PairTree home study partners are efficient and take pride in completing home studies promptly. By staying on top of your tasks and deadlines, you can complete the home study in under a month and move forward with your adoption journey. In some cases, we've even seen expedited home studies completed in less than a week!

If an adoption home study still sounds scary or overwhelming, we assure you, you’re not alone. Many potential adoptive parents feel the same way, but there's a good chance you will look back and realize that the home study process was much less stressful than you anticipated. Check out comments and advice from other prospective adoptive parents who completed their home study.

At PairTree, we strive to make every family's adoption experience a positive one. Connect with an adoption expert today and find the support you need to get the home study process started!

Anna St. Martin Anna's professional history is primarily in education where she worked as a middle school English/Language Arts teacher and later as a school counselor. After having their son, Oliver, and later adopting their daughter, Charlotte, Anna chose to spend a few years at home as a stay-at-home-mom. It was during their adoption journey that she met their amazing home study evaluator who inspired her to pursue a career as a home study provider and help others grow their families through adoption.

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